School seeks truth in alleged bomb plot

500 students absent at Glen Burnie High

May 01, 1999|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Amid fears of bombs and violence suddenly all too close to home, more than 500 students stayed away from Glen Burnie High School yesterday.

The school was not exactly deserted, though.

Determined to bring order to the 2,100-student campus, administrators brought in police officers with bomb-sniffing dogs and extra personnel to help and counsel stunned students. They themselves handled the daunting task of sifting truth from teen-age fiction blossoming after the arrest of three freshmen on Thursday.

The problem, as the administrators now know, is that there was some small truth to rumors that had at first seemed bizarre and wild. Administrators confirmed yesterday that they'd found warnings of a fate worse than Littleton scrawled across a desk in a classroom, and a flier announcing a date for an attack on the school.

Meanwhile, the three charged freshman boys, defended by friends and family who say they couldn't hurt anyone, were ordered held at the state-run Waxter Children's Center in Laurel by a juvenile master yesterday.

Two of them will stay there pending a May 27 trial date, and the other faces a review hearing Wednesday. All will undergo psychiatric and substance-abuse evaluations. The Sun does not print the names of juvenile suspects.

The parallels to Littleton have been analyzed in this blue-collar suburb by students who voice a sense of dread and anxiety.

"Sometimes I'll be walking down the hall, looking at the person next to me, and thinking, `I wonder if they are going to pull a gun and kill me right now,' " said Michelle Parsons, 17, a senior at Glen Burnie High.

She speaks in a monotone, matter-of-factly, because, like millions of kids in her generation, she has seen the live reports out of Jonesboro, Ark., and Springfield, Ore., and Littleton, Colo. And she is coming to terms with what seems indisputable: Kids sometimes die at school.

Other kids said the same.

Junior Paul Callow: "It happens. What can you do about it?"

Freshman Matt Poch: "There are some crazy people at our school."

Senior Mike Knipp: "I couldn't count how many times I have been evacuated for bomb threats."

From his school office yesterday, Principal David Hill said he could sense his students just wanted their lives back, wanted to look forward to graduation just around the corner and the prom next weekend, wanted to forget about the monthly bomb threats and Thursday's crushing incident.

"They are just very tired," he said. "Tired of the threats. Tired of not being able to come here and do what they are supposed to be doing here."

Attorney Patrick Smith, hired by two of the boys' families, said the charges and accusations have been devastating.

"These kids are not in some cult, they're not in some trench coat Mafia," he said. "They barely even knew each other. They had a few classes together but it was a loose arrangement.

"This has been blown way out of proportion," he said. "They weren't going to go bomb anyplace, and they weren't making any bombs."

Smith said the "bomb components" police found were a bowling bag with wires in it and a tennis ball with a hole in it, stuff any teen-ager might have tossed under a bed or in a closet.

Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said that even if the belongings collected from the homes were just toys and the talk was just harmless chatter, they couldn't take chances.

Det. Keith J. Light, who was in the principal's office when the first student was called in for allegedly making threats, said the student acknowledged having a hit list, and telling a fellow classmate she was on it.

Light said the student told another student "the best place to kill the most people is to put a bomb in the old main building."

Detectives found a map of the school grounds in one of the boy's satchels, and they found notes that read "May 10 the school goes boom" and "You all die May 10."

Every threat must be examined, Riggin said, each one treated as seriously as the next.

Sun staff writers Kirsten Scharnberg and TaNoah Morgan contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/01/99

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